the historic coast of Fife - The East Neuk (meaning East corner).
All along this coastline, which was once described as the fringe
of Gold by King James VI, are picturesque burghs including
Pittenweem, Crail, Kilrenny, Anstruther and St Monans. Discover
the windy, cobbled streets and houses with red pan tiles and crow
stepped gables, all influenced by the architecture of the Low Countries.
This golden coast is steeped in history reflecting the bygone heyday
of trade by sea with Europe.
East Neuk Factsheet
This picturesque fishing town was declared a Royal Burgh in
1541 and is the only one that still has a working harbour, which
dates back to around 1600. The harbour and the market square
are connected to each other by cobbled streets known as wynds.
parish church dates from the 16th century and nearby are the
ruins of the priory. The priory was originally located on
the Isle of May, 6 miles off the coast, however, a move to
the mainland ensued when the administration was turned over
to the Augustian monks of St Andrews. The move to Pittenweem
eliminated the threat of invasions from sea pirates who were
a menace to the original Isle of May site. The new priory
brought a welcome boost to the area and as a flourishing town
Pittenweem established itself as one of the most prosperous
areas in Scotland.
priory had underground passages which led down to St Fillans
cave. Prior to the existence of the harbour, the cave could
only be reached by boat, which made it an ideal secret hiding
place for local smugglers of the time.
is also steeped in witchcraft history and was once well known
around the area for its harsh punishment of witches. Several
witch trials took place in the town and the local witches
were drowned in the loch at Kilconquhar
- East of
Pittenweem, in the tranquil village of St Monans, stands a windmill.
This building was known as the Saltmill and played a pivotal
role during the high trade between Scotland and Europe. The
saltmill was used to pump the seawater to extract the salt.
It took nearly 32 tons of seawater to produce a ton of salt.
East Neuk Burgh and became a Royal Burgh in the 12th century.
Robert the Bruce granted permission to hold markets on a Sunday,
in the Marketgait, where the Mercat Cross now stands in Crail.
The decision caused such outrage in religious circles that
John Knox delivered a sermon at Crail Parish Church in the
Marketgait damning the fishermen of the East Neuk for working
on a Sunday. Despite the protests, the markets were a huge
success and were amongst the largest in Europe.
in the centre of the town has a characteristic tower and a
European style roof, similar to buildings in Holland. A fish
makes up part of its quirky weathervane as a reference to
an old local delicacy called Crail Capon, which
was split, dried haddock.
influence literally rings true in the old town hall: the bell
in the tower was brought over from Holland and is a permanent
reminder of the towns links with the Dutch.
the fact that the home of golf is now Crails
neighbour, St Andrews, Crail was in fact the first to have
a golf course. It may not, however, be a candidate for the
worlds oldest course - one story holds that the Scots
did not invent the game but that it was brought back by Scottish
fishermen who discovered the Dutch playing a form of the game.
One of the largest villages and described as the heart of the
East Neuk, Anstruther was once one of the busiest ports in the
area. The history of the fishing industry on the east coast
is captured in Anstruthers famous fishing museum. The
museum is housed in a building that has been associated with
fishing for over 400 years and bears a memorial to the many
men who have lost their lives at sea for their occupation.
is steeped in history and nearly every building in the village
tells a story. A famous tale is of Buckie House, known as
the Shell House. The house was embellished with
shells by Alex Batchelor, who was obviously not content at
only decorating his home as he extended his obsession to charging
people to see his coffin, which funnily enough was also covered
in shells. Even Robert Louis Stevenson, a visitor to the area
as a young boy, made note in his Fife journals, of the pebble
adorned house of the agreeable eccentric.